Welcoming the Returning Alums
By Bart Gummere, Associate Head of School for College Counseling and Alumni Relations
The periods just before and after the winter holiday break are great fun for me. During this week, and the week before the break, numerous alumni return to our campus. The fact that they are excited to return to visit their school, teachers and younger friends, and that we are all so excited to see them, is one of the very best aspects of EPS life.
Our alums aren’t just filled with nostalgia in returning. They bring a lot of perspective and wisdom as well. One thing they almost never talk about, though, is what life would be like if they were doing something else. Our graduates predominantly attend college immediately after Eastside Prep. Almost no one ever returns saying to me, “If I’d only been accepted to….” Any heartbreak of the college process is forgotten. Presented with abundant opportunity on the campus that they chose (and to some extent chose them) they do just what they should. They make the most of those opportunities, and in doing so, become fulfilled.
No matter how much they return and advise our current students that it will all work out, that lesson isn’t easily absorbed. We haven’t learned to translate, “relax, it will all work out” into a language easily heard by seniors.
All of this is difficult. In a recent survey of our students, they collectively admitted that teachers, parents and friends all put pressure on them, but the biggest pressure is self-imposed. There are some good reasons for their angst. The most selective colleges receive record numbers of applications. The global economy is ever more competitive. Finding happiness and success, no matter how one defines this, is complicated.
And yet, each year, our students do move successfully through the year, graduate and then matriculate elsewhere. Additionally, many of our graduates are now old enough to be past their undergraduate experience and are finding success in the “real world.”
It’s one of my aims in my new role to better connect that successful and happy reality of our graduates with our current students. I want our students to approach this time of their lives with greater confidence and optimism. Further, the final year of high school, which is also the final year living full-time at home for many, should be a time of positive experiences and memories. Be assured we are doing all we can to help make the final year here for students productive, positive and happy.